Vipassana Meditation: The Art of Living

Vipassana meditation is a technique of Buddhist meditation that can induce and facilitate transformative experiences for an individual. It carries with it a rich history of enlightening many people and being lost and found several times over. It is most famously known as the method of meditation that Gautama Buddha used when he became enlightened under the tree.

Vipassana meditation is a technique of Buddhist meditation that can induce and facilitate transformative experiences for an individual.

It carries with it a rich history of enlightening many people and being lost and found several times over. It is most famously known as the method of meditation that Gautama Buddha used when he became enlightened under the tree.

The aim of the technique is to liberate oneself from the suffering that Buddhists claim to be intrinsic in life, to be able to remain objective in the face of physical and mental pain and to generate compassion for all living beings through loving-kindness meditation.

Perhaps, you’ve heard about Vipassana before but are not really sure what exactly it entails. Keep reading, we are going to go into detail about the history, the philosophy, and the technique itself.

We are also going to tell the story of S.N. Goenka, the man who made it possible for people everywhere to learn this technique for free at Vipassana meditation retreat centres around the world.

vipassana meditation

The History of Vipassana Meditation

The word ‘vipassana’ literally means ‘bare sight’ or ‘to see things as they really are’. It is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It is said to have existed long before Gautama the Buddha or Siddhartha Gautama himself, who live from the fifth to the fourth century BCE.

Gautama Buddha was revered as an enlightened being (Buddha) that rediscovered the technique and ancient path of training the mind to transcend craving and aversion. This path is also known as ‘Dhamma’ or ‘Dharma’.  

As the story goes, Siddhartha Gautama renounced his life as the son of aristocratic parents and dedicated himself to the path of enlightenment. Being utterly motivated to achieve enlightenment and understand the realm of pain, he sat beneath a tree and made a strong determination that he would not move until he became fully enlightened.

This tree, ‘the Bodhi Tree’ still stands today in Bihar, India, though its age is visible, and it is decaying at a steady pace, dying little by little each day.

So, at the age of 35 he became enlightened, and having experienced the wonderful fruits of Dhamma first-hand, he decided to dedicate his life to teaching the Vipassana technique to anyone who cared to learn. He spent the next 45 years of his life teaching the technique, and when he took his last breath at the age of 80, he was still teaching it to an eager individual at the side of his death bed.

Though Gautama Buddha is famously known as the founder of the Buddhist religion, he did not consider the technique of Vipassana a sectarian technique, which only devotees of Buddhism could learn. He considered it a universal technique of following the breath and observing oneself, that anyone, from any religion, group. or sect, could learn and benefit from.

Among his devotees were members of many religious groups, but suffering is a universal experience, and liberation a universal possibility.

S.N Goenka – The Rediscovery of Vipassana Meditation

S.N Goenka, also known to Vipassana old students as ‘Goenka Ji’ was a Burmese businessman. While religion was (and still is) a big part of Burmese life, he himself was not especially religious. Having grown up in a conservative Hindu household, he associated religion with the practice of rites, rituals, and devotion. After finding the Vipassana meditation technique, he renounced them, deeming them as unpractical and unhelpful.

S.N Goenka met Vipassana meditation in an unlikely way. As previously mentioned, he was a businessman, concerned primarily with material existence and success. At some point in his business career, he began having agonizing migraines.

He visited many doctors, even travelling the globe in search of one who could resolve his problem but found no answers. Many doctors suggested that his problems were of a psychosomatic nature, as none were able to find an alternative root cause for the pain he was enduring.

In desperation, and developing a dependence on morphine, which he used to combat the pain, he turned to a friend who advised him to try this technique of meditation.

At that time, Vipassana meditation had largely died out, but a small group of teachers in Myanmar were still teaching the tradition. This friend probed Goenka to try it, seeing as there were no other options, he decided to give it a go.

Like now, at the time, learning the Vipassana meditation technique involved going to a meditation retreat centre for 10-days to learn the technique from start to finish. Goenka, after two days of meditation, became frustrated and agitated.

He was convinced that this technique was not for him, discouraged by how difficult he found it to sit and meditate, he started to leave. As he was leaving a friend stopped him, appealing to his better nature, begging him to stay and finish what he has started.

In the end, he stayed and finished the retreat. Not only did his migraines, which were so terribly painful and persistent finally disappear, but he felt as though he has gained true insight into the nature of life. He felt cured, not only from his physical ills but from the psychological disturbances that caused them.

After that, he used the money he made in his career as a businessman to set up more centres like this one. He made it so that anyone who wanted to learn the technique could come to do so for free, as the centres worked purely on a donation-based system.

Vipassana Meditation Today – The Silent Meditation Retreat

Today, thanks to the initial efforts of S.N Goenka, there are many of these Vipassana meditation centres around the world.

A Vipassana meditation retreat consists of spending ten days in noble silence, foregoing all contact with the outside world, all forms of entertainment, speech, and anything else you can think of.

The meditation schedule begins at four-thirty in the morning, with ten hours of meditation each day, for ten days.

Episode 3 – Wudang Tao with Jake Pinnick

In this episode I have a conversation with Jake Pinnick, Jake is a Taoist Kung Fu coach in Wudang China, the birthplace of Taoism. There, he has been living, both training and teaching for about 10 years.
Jake was trained the traditional way in the first and only 5-year training program for westerners taught by Master Yuan Xiu Gang.
Here we talk about the Taoist philosophy and lifestyle and how it compares to other schools of eastern thought, about his training experience in Wu dang, and we talk a bit about keeping the balance in daily life.

In this episode of the Cerebro Somata Podcast I have a conversation with Jake Pinnick, Jake is a Taoist kung fu coach in Wu dang China, the birthplace of Taoism, where he has been living both training and teaching for about 10 years.

Jake was trained the traditional way in the first and only ever 5-year training program for westerners taught by Master Yuan Xiu Gang.

Here we talk about the Taoist philosophy and lifestyle and how it compares to other schools of eastern thought, about his training experience in Wu dang, and we talk a bit about keeping the balance in daily life.

So, I hope you enjoy the conversation and don’t forget if you do like it, like the video or subscribe to the channel. Be notified when I upload some new talks, there are some really interesting ones coming next so if you like this kind of stuff, stay in touch.

Episode 2 – Psychedelics, Science & Spirituality

Marion Gildea is a Master’s research intern in the field of Psychedelic Medicine at Imperial College London. In this podcast conversation, we discuss the current position of psychedelic research, its potential for clinical usage, depth psychology, and spirituality.
We discuss the subconscious mind as a sort of unknown entity that dictates behaviour from unseen corners, and how different approaches, including modern psychology and ancient Buddhist philosophy view this phenomenon.

In this episode I speak with Marion Gildea, a Master’s research intern in the field of Psychedelic Medicine at Imperial College London.

In this conversation, we discuss the current position of psychedelic research, its potential for clinical usage, depth psychology, and spirituality. We discuss the subconscious mind as a sort of unknown entity that dictates behaviour from unseen corners of the psyche, and how different approaches, including modern psychology and ancient Buddhist philosophy approach this phenomenon.

We go into detail about psychedelic research, what the experience is like for psychedelic research volunteers who participate in psychedelic research. We discuss the essence of the spiritual experience that often accompanies being under the influence of psychedelics, and the difficulty in reconciling those feelings with our scientific understanding of the nature of reality.

Still being in the early days of podcasting, please forgive the sound quality. We will be looking toward making a number of improvements as time goes by and hope it doesn’t stop you from enjoying the conversation all the same.

If this is something you are interested in, I encourage to follow or subscribe to the website. Alternatively, you could like our Facebook page, as all published material will be posted there!

Who We Are

The coming journal will be dedicated to delivering content of a scientific nature. We will be primarily focused on topics which may be useful in contributing to improved well being. We hope to make the vast sea of scientific research about the human mind, the human existence itself, more accessible to non academic readers. We hope to do this without compromising the integrity of science.

However, on another note, we also hope to deliver informative content pertaining to the 6000 year old body of philosophical and practical knowledge that comes from the East. Although not strictly scientific, we would like to give readers the accessibility to learn about eastern practices.

Such practices as meditation, yoga, Tai chi/Qi Gong have in many instances, taken the scientific community by storm. We would like to summarize and share what’s out there, while also providing an insight to the history of where these potent practices arose.